Bachelorette Cooking: Chapalang Cottage Pie Recipe

In my many years as a University student fending for herself in the midst of the big city, I have learned three things about cooking…

  1. As long as you have eggs, salt and rice, you can make fried rice out of anything.
  2. Minestrone soup can be cooked with any veggies you have lying in the house. Just chop ’em up and throw ’em all into a big pot with water, salt, crushed tomatoes and some tomato puree. Great for Winter.
  3. If all else fails, make an omelette. Great for leftover burgers (the bread becomes a French toast and the minced meat goes down a treat).

So, this weekend, I made a new discovery – mash doesn’t always have to be potatoes. With that in mind, I present to you my recipe for Chapalang[1] Cottage Pie!

Here, in all its rubbish-looking yet delicious glory!  (Made with a beef mince; a mix of peas, corn, carrots and mushrooms; and topped with a parsnip, carrot and mushroom crust)

Here it is, in all its rubbish-looking yet delicious glory! (Made with a beef mince; a mix of peas, corn, carrots and mushrooms; and topped with a parsnip, carrot and mushroom crust)

You will need…

  • Pot
  • Casserole dish
  • Oven
  • Blender/Food Processor
  • Steamer
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g meat mince (beef, pork, lamb, combination of all the above.  Whatever.)
  • 300ml stock (any stock will do)
  • 1 tsbp tomato paste
  • 1/2 to 1 tsbp Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
  • 200g random mixed veggies (peas, corn, carrot, mushrooms, frozen veggies.  Anything.  We’re not picky here.)
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 2 tsbp parsley
  • 1 tsbp vegetable oil
  • 500g of assorted root vegetables (Parsnip, turnip, carrot, potato etc…[2]  You can also use some mushrooms to give it a little extra lift.)
  • 30g butter

First, mince the onion, garlic and capsicum.  Fry them up with the oil in the pot until the onion is semi-translucent.  Add the meat to the pot and brown it.

Once the minced meat is lightly browned, pour in the mixed veggies, stock, tomato paste, parsley and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens (about 30 minutes or so).

Once the sauce is thickened, transfer the cooked meat mince mix into the casserole dish and leave to stand.

Peel and cut the root vegetables into quarters and steam them until soft, about 20 minutes should do it.  Mash together while still hot in a food processor with butter and spread over the top of the casserole dish.  If you are using mushrooms as part of the crust, do not steam them with the other veggies, but mash them in raw (they’ll cook in the oven later).  There should be less mushrooms than other veggies in the mix.

Bake in oven at 180 degrees Celsius, or until the crust becomes brown.  Remove and let cool before eating.

This recipe is pretty laid back, so feel free to experiment with different flavours, but use your “blane” to figure out what flavours don’t match.

Enjoy and, in keeping with laid back nature of this recipe, Happy Belated Australia Day!

[1]Malaysian slang for anything or whatever.  Y’know that stuff.  *Vague hand waving motion*

[2]But not beetroot because beetroot is evil and unnaturally pink.

The Perfect Name by ABC Me: A Review

Picture Credit: ABC Me

As I mentioned last week, thinking of The Perfect Name for Baby #3 is on my mind (well, right behind “Settle kids into school” and “Take the car for servicing”). Sometimes I wonder if J and Little E realise how much thought has gone into their names.

When I was about 11 years old, my family and I were taking a trip to the USA when we came across a bookstore that published personalised keepsake books. These were storybooks where you could have any name of your choice inserted into the text of the book, and suddenly, your kid becomes the main character of the story. We’d never seen anything like that anywhere else before, so my parents immediately purchased a book for our little Godbrother who was turning a year old. My Godbrother treasured the book so much that when my own J turned a year old, he brought the book over to our house for ‘safekeeping’ until he has a child of his own to share this special book with.

This is similar to the experience that Jawan and Althea Parker of ABC Me had when they were residing in the US where they were given a customised book for their son. After moving to Singapore, they looked for similar personalised books that they could give away as gifts to their friends, and upon finding none, they decided to develop their own! What is special about their books is that they not only include names in English, but also the option to incorporate other fun details such as names in Chinese characters, birth dates and the chinese zodiac sign.

I was pretty excited when ABC Me contacted me and asked if they could send a customised copy of The Perfect Name ($39.90) for both J and Little E. I thought it would be a great way to teach Little E how to spell her full name and become more familiar with her chinese name.

Picture Credit: ABC Me

The books are really very big – A4 size – and they are in hardcover so they will definitely last a long time, and the pages are thick and glossy with gorgeous full colour illustrations of animals by Nordeva (Nora Garcia) and Katie Hofgard (Known on Deviant Art as ‘Shadow Wolf’).

The book concept is relatively straightforward: Different animals spell out each name letter by letter (up to 20 letters) in simple rhyming couplets.

I was worried that I would see repeated animals or illustrations in the final product, but Jawan and Althea made sure that they had 3-5 animals for each letter, so that it’s highly unlikely that you’d see repeats. (Well, unless your name is something like Lillee Lee LeeLee.)

I think the novelty of the book definitely lies in the fact that kids can see their names being spelled out on each page, and it definitely will make for a long-lasting and meaningful keepsake. I personally would have preferred for the book to come in a smaller sizes to make it much more portable and easier for little hands to handle, but the illustrations are truly very beautiful, so perhaps shrinking them to A5 will not do them justice.

ABC Me also does another keepsake book called My Alphabet Book ($29.90) which goes through the alphabet, with the child’s first name making appearances in the body of the text.

You can find ABC Me at their website here.

The Process of Naming: A (very exhaustive) guide to Baby Naming

Hello World!

Still nameless for the moment

The Barn Owl and I take naming very seriously in our family, as we really believe that the process of naming is very important. This is something that has been on my mind lately, as we are still looking for names for Baby #3.  As one of my favourite authors, Ursula Le Guin once wrote, “For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing.”

In most cultures around the world, naming is so significant that there are elaborate rituals and ceremonies surrounding the giving and receiving of names. Some countries even have strict official laws and have government-run departments and committees that have the final say in giving approval to names. In our modern society, companies are playing top dollar to the ad industry in order to establish names for their products and businesses, even conducting extensive market research to find the best names to represent the uniqueness of their brands. So…what could be more important than the name of a child who will be unique in every way?

Since the Barn Owl and I come from different cultures, we try to pick names that will best represent the unification of our families. It is not an easy task. This is why both J and Little E have English first names and Chinese middle names and we have slightly different criteria for choosing each one.

So here’s our:

Barn Owl and Debs G’s Exhausting Exhaustive Guide to Baby Naming

 1. Names should have positive meanings and associations

Apart from considering the root etymology of names (we try to avoid names with sad or depressive meanings eg. Mara which means ‘Bitterness’), we always try to think of people that we know who will share the same name as our child. These have to be people whom we deeply respect or value and whose characters we would be happy for our child to emulate.

This can include historical figures. I mean, nobody in their right mind nowadays would ever name their child ‘Adolf’, which used to be pretty popular name because of its kingly associations. Unsurprisingly, it’s a name that has never been in favour since the events of WWII.

We also consider fictional and pop-culture characters, especially from contemporary popular fiction, because we know our kids will be growing up surrounded by people who are familiar with these names. For example, we ruled out the name ‘Lucius’ although it is a lovely derivative of the latin word ‘Lux’ for ‘light’, solely because J.K. Rowling chose to bestow it upon one of her Deatheaters.

2. No part of the name itself can be used as a cruel nickname

The last thing we want to do is intentionally name our kid something which we already know for certain that they will come to feel ashamed of. This includes name short forms and derivatives, not forgetting initials! This means not naming our kid something that will spell out ‘P.I.G’ or ‘E.G.G’ and considering how the name sounds when read (or mispronounced). For example, this Singaporean politician’s name has been the butt of many silly pun jokes just because of the way it sounds in English, and the name ‘Naomi’ mispronounced could end up referring to a braised noodle dish.

Of course, school children can be very inventive when coming up with nasty nicknames for people that they do not like, however, we do what we can to try to mitigate this situation. It’s not foolproof though – I recently met up with an old friend whose name has been mispronounced for most of her life, and she was bemoaning the fact that she purposefully shortened her daughter’s name from ‘Mikayla’ to ‘Kayla’ in order to avoid mispronunciation (“Mickey Lah”), only to find that people ended up calling her child ‘Kai-lan‘, the cantonese name for chinese broccoli.

This applies to the chinese name as well. Chinese wordplay is a source of great amusement as there are many homophones in the language that have vastly different meanings. For example, the Aged P often speaks fondly of his friend at school named Cheng Wah, which very poetically means ‘a splendid situation’. Unfortunately, the poor guy’s name also sounded like ‘qing wa‘, which is why he spent his schooling years affectionately known to all his mates as ‘Froggy’.

3. The names are easily pronounced by both sides of our family 

This is a little bit more challenging when choosing the Chinese name than choosing the English name, but the main reason for this is because the Barn Owl should be able to say the full names of his own children without difficulty!

Our method of getting around this is to find a way to describe the Chinese name by comparing it with a similar sounding English name (bonus points if that name has a great meaning too). For example, J’s middle name sounds like the name ‘Ryan’, if it is pronounced with a Scottish accent!

4. The name has a pleasant sounding cadence or musicality when paired together with the last name

That is, it rolls off the tongue smoothly. For this, we tend to consider the English and Chinese name separately, because that’s how they will be most commonly used.

Chinese names are generally quite musical in nature anyway, just because each chinese character in the language follows the traditional four tone classes and this is taken into account when pairing characters to form names. Many parents will use meaningful four-character idioms (known as ‘cheng yu‘) or existing famous poems to choose names. Some families even have generation names which, when strung together will form a beautiful poem.

For English names, we focus more on the rhythm and flow of the spoken name.

First of all, we try to mix up the combination of syllables in each part of the name to make it sound less like reciting bland Shakespearean verse. This adds a little variety in the rhythm of the names and which syllables are stressed when they are spoken aloud. For example, our last name has two syllables, so we tend towards names that have an odd number of syllables.

Secondly, we think that the name should not sound too similar to the surname either by rhyming with it or repeating any part surname. Rhyming and repeating names don’t necessarily sound bad, but they can certainly invite ridicule, such as in the case of poor ole Maj. Major Major Major from ‘Catch 22‘. I mean, if one’s surname is ‘Lin’, why saddle your child with the first name ‘Finn’ or ‘Gwynn’? It would be like naming a cartoon character.

5. Names must be tested by the Focus Group 

In our case, the Focus Group is usually the Aged Ps and the Outlaws, and we also take our siblings opinions into account (A Becky Lee will insist on it). Sometimes a trusted friend or uncle/auntie will be consulted too. What we normally do is talk to them about a few name options that we are considering, just to see if there are any very violent negative reactions to the names.

6. Follow your gut feeling 

In our case, after going through lists of names, we have always found that there will be one particular name that stands out amongst all others and will continue to stick in our minds. The Barn Owl and I eventually come to the same unanimous decision about a child’s name and have the same gut feeling that it is the right choice. This will sometimes mean throwing out all the other rules!

Get Pinned: Pin Trading at Disneyworld

Ever since I got my pin lanyard way back in 2006, when Disney was celebrating its “Year of a Million Dreams” campaign, I’ve been hooked on pin-trading.  It was a completely unexpected random giveaway that happened I was in the line for Mission: Space in Tomorrowland.  Since then, pin trading has become one of the biggest highlights of my Disney trips.


My favourite pin

Every time I got to Disneyworld (or a subsidiary thereof), I take stock of the pins that I currently have in my collection, pick the ones that I want to keep and leave the rest for random trading.  There’s just something really exciting about spotting awesome pins and trading for them, or finding that very rare pin that you really love.  To me, the real value is in finding those unique pins that I can wear on my lapel for everyday.  For example, one of my favourite pins in my collection is a “Happy Villaintines Day” pin featuring Maleficent.  I’ve worn this pin on my lapel every Valentines Day since 2006.

This last trip to Disneyworld, I roped the Boobook into my pintrading hobby.  One of the first things we did at the park was purchase a pin lanyard and a Pirates of the Caribbean starter pin set. For that extra bit of challenge, we set ourselves pin-trading goals.  The Boobook’s was to collect all seven Winnie the Pooh Hidden Mickey pins and mine was to get a Princess Anna pin[1].  Then, it was off to the parks to trade for various pins!

Ready to go: Check out our lanyards!

The Sorcerers Hat is a great place to get your pins valued, but also a good place to start your pin trading fun.

Pin trading is pretty finicky in Disneyworld.  Most people tend to trade only with cast members, as the cast are pretty much obligated to trade pins with you up to three times.  Plus, trading with cast members also increases the likelihood of attaining “Hidden Mickey” pins – pins that cannot be bought, only traded for.  That being said, there are some places where other guests are more willing to trade with you.  The Sorceror’s Hat in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (pictured above) is one of them.  The hat doubles as a pin shop and a place for valuation of pins.  I had my rare Davy Crockett pin valued there[2].

The other place for pin trading amongst guests is near Scoop Sanderson, the cub reporter and super pin-trader who hangs around on Main Street in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  Sadly, while I wasn’t able to trade with the great Scoop himself, as he was closing up shop, I did still manage to trade away a truly ugly Caribbean Cruise pin with another guest.  I didn’t come away from the encounter empty-handed either.  Scoop actually gave me a Cast Member’s only Christmas ornament as consolation for not getting to trade!

Feel the magic!

Feel the magic!

This year’s Cast Member pins weren’t really all that much to write home about – there weren’t very many for trade that had moving parts or other special effects.  However, I did get a tip that the best pins are only available at the start of the day, or just after lunch.Unfortunately, try as I might, I could not find a single Anna pin for trade.  Still, the Boobook did manage to get 4 out of 7 Winnie the Pooh pins.  Although we didn’t manage to get everything we came for, we still came away with some pretty nifty pins!

At the end of the day, pin trading is pretty fun and we’re planning to do more of it during our Honeymoon stop at Tokyo Disneyland.  The Boobook is already drafting up a sign inviting Japanese Disney guests to come trade with us!  Hopefully, we’ll be able to find something interesting!

[1] By trading for it, of course.  There’s no challenge in just buying it off the shelf.

[2] It wasn’t worth much, but it’s still an error pin and may appreciate in value later.

Owl Fly Away to DisneyWorld (with the extended family)

The multigenerational family!

The multigenerational family at DisneyWorld Animal Kingdom!

We have a new post at our travel blog, Owl Fly Away!

When planning a trip to DisneyWorld, it’s hard to please everyone – but you can certainly try your best!

Check out my top tips for planning a trip to Disneyworld for the Multigenerational Family of Diverse Interests!


Online Shopping with Itsy Bitsy Me (And a giveaway!)

J and Little E are growing up so fast! In fact, I just got round to decluttering their wardrobes last week and cleared out all the clothes that they have outgrown. Which left their cupboards looking woefully bare. This can only mean one thing…

It’s time for some retail therapy! Yay!

I was really excited when Mei, the Mumpreneur behind the online kids clothes store, Itsy Bitsy Me, got in touch with me. I have been stalking Itsy Bitsy Me since Little E was born, way back in 2008 and it always seems to stock the most beautiful things.

What I find particularly impressive about Itsy Bitsy Me is Mei’s commitment to reducing the carbon footprint of her store as well as seeking out eco-friendly and socially responsible brands. Most of the clothes are made from sustainable materials such as organic or bamboo cotton, or printed with non-toxic water-based dyes which are environmentally friendly.

During our email conversation, Mei told me that when she first started out bringing children’s products into Singapore, she was shocked to learn of the unethical manufacturing practices that exist today, which not only have a negative impact on the environment but also exploit vulnerable groups. To her horror, she realised that the clothes our children wear are made from the sweat and tears of other children working under terrible conditions. Since then, she has taken great care to source only for sweatshop-free brands in her store that are committed to fair-trade practices and focus on worker’s welfare throughout their manufacturing process.

A graphic designer by trade, Mei describes herself as a very visual person, which is why the lovingly curated collection sold at Itsy Bitsy Me features unusual, innovative uses of colours and prints, with cleverly designed, eye-catching details seldom seen elsewhere. All the clothes carried instore are produced in very limited quantities based on the orders of each brand’s official retailers. This not only ensures each design’s exclusivity, but also prevents wastage of materials through overstocks.

Needless to say, I am so thankful for the opportunity to pick a few new togs for J and Little E from Itsy Bitsy Me’s gorgeous selection of kidswear! Here’s what we chose in the end:


On Little EElizabeth top in cream lace (SGD$29.34) and Kensington Skirt in Turquoise (SGD$25.96)

I just love Little E in this cream lace top and multilayered skirt from Mustard Pie! They are just so much fun. The minute she put the skirt on, she just started swishing and dancing around. The material of the cotton top is thick and soft, and will definitely hold its shape even after many washes, whilst the skirt, with it’s unique colour scheme is not only striking but is lined with comfortable cotton-jersey. I really like the ruffles at the back of the lace top, which is a pretty touch.

Mei was thoughtful enough to throw in a matching headband as well, just for ‘the fun of it’, which Little E absolutely loves. Thanks, Mei!

J in Mini Shatsu

On J: CEO Tee (SGD$31.20) and Herringbone Pants (SGD$33.60)

For J, I picked out this supercool tee and 3/4 trousers from Mini-Shatsu. J really liked the tee, with it’s tie appliqué, pocket and vest (which really buttons up in front!), and I think the cargo-style trousers give him a cute Hobbit look! I appreciate the fact that the trousers are lined with cotton-terry which wicks away sweat from active little legs.

I actually find it quite difficult to buy trousers for J from online stores, because he has such a slim, tall frame that he can only wear trousers that come with a specific type of belted, adjustable elastic waistband and most online web stores fail to fully describe their clothes. Not so with Itsy Bitsy Me – Mei takes the trouble to write loads of very helpful descriptive detail including advice on the cut and fit of the clothes, so I was absolutely confident in what I was buying! In fact, the quality of the clothes really exceeded my expectations.

I couldn’t resist picking out a new dress for Little E, also from the Mustard Pie collection on Itsy Bitsy Me. It was the combination of pink and grey as well as the unusual mix of fabrics and patterns that attracted me to this deceptively simple dress. I think the detachable rosette belt might double up as a cute headband as well! Once Little E put it on, she was so reluctant to take it off that I let her wear it for the rest of the day – and she stayed cool and fresh in it, despite running around in it all over the place!

I also chose this Stella Industries Starlet dress for Little E which I am saving for a very special occasion later this year. It is so gorgeous in real life – a deep midnight blue with silvery sparkles all over it – and reminds me of the night sky. The reason why I don’t have a picture of Little E in it is because I’ve hidden it away for now (otherwise she will be begging to wear it ALL THE TIME).

I normally avoid “ballerina princess”-type dresses because they tend to be polyester-lined and the tons of fluffy tulle can become rather hot and scratchy to wear, especially in Singapore weather. However, this dress features a seamless, super-soft 100% cotton-jersey lining and will be utterly comfortable. Plus at the bargain price of a mere SGD$42.50, it’s a real steal!

(By the way, you will notice that all the clothes I chose are from the Itsy Bitsy Me sale section! This is because I find it very difficult to pass up an awesome bargain. Heehee.)

Right now, Itsy Bitsy Me is running a special New Year’s Promotion from now until the 19th February 2015 with 20% off regular priced apparel (with the discount code MC20) and an extra 10% off the purchase of any 2 items instore (including the sale section – with the discount code FB10). So, if you are looking for some very special party outfits for Chinese New Year for a special little person, you should definitely check it out,

A bonus for Owls Well Readers: Itsy Bitsy Me is very kindly sponsoring a giveaway of one SGD$10 shopping voucher for TWO lucky Owls Well Readers!

To take part in this giveaway:

  1. Be a fan of the Owls Well Facebook page
  2. Like and share this Facebook Photo and tag a friend – make sure your post is public!
  3. Visit Itsy Bitsy Me and leave a comment below telling me your favourite outfit from the store, as well the name of your Facebook account that you used to like and share the page. Don’t forget to include your email address! (If you would like to send me the email address privately, leave a comment for the other answers, then email me at 4owlswell [at] gmail [dot] com)

(Giveaway is open worldwide and will end on 22nd January 2015. Winners will be picked via – just make sure you complete all 3 easy steps!)

Good Luck!

P.S. Check out this post about shopping at Itsy Bitsy Me over at Life’s Tiny Miracles – and do join in the giveaway there too!

(update: This giveaway is now closed and the winners have been contacted via email – thanks for playing!)

School’s Out FOREVAH! (And a quick spinach puffs recipe)

Hi Debs!

After 3 years of nailbiting examination panic, sleepless nights of covering for last-minute submissions of lazy group project members and, of course, the endless afterwork hours spent trawling the library for academic papers to reference, I have FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY graduated!

Yes, that’s right!  I am now Master A Becky Lee of Professional Accounting!  All Hail!

So now, I have recently discovered this thing called “a good nights sleep” and have even acquired the mythical “free time”.  Of course, this means that it is time to PARTY…

…and by party, I mean plan to have a party at a time when everyone is back from their holidays and perhaps not as partied out since the Christmas break only just ended.

I was thinking of having a recess-themed party, with party games like five stones and catching and food that’s from the school canteen only better.  So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to show you some of the party foods that I’m planning to make.  Hopefully, they’ll be of better quality than the ones in the school canteen.

This spinach puff recipe is my perinnial party favourite and go to recipe because it’s super quick and easy to make.

My Spinach Puffs!  You will love them!

My Spinach Puffs! You will love them!

You will need…

  • 500 grams of frozen spinach
  • 1 packet of powdered cream of anything that isn’t tomato soup mix and doesn’t contain noodles[1]
  • 250 grams of sour cream
  • A few handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese
  • Puff pastry sheets
  • Oven preheated to 180 degrees celcius
  • Milk or egg (optional)

Step 1: Prepare the Spinach

Nuke the frozen spinach in the nucleator (aka microwave) for about 2 minutes, or until it’s somewhat heated up.  Drain the excess water and add the powdered soup mix while it is still hot.  Stir well and set aside to cool.

Salty powdered goodness

Salty powdered goodness

Step 2: Add Sourcream

Leave the spinach aside to cool, or cover it and put it in the fridge.  Add all the sour cream when, and only when, the spinach is cold.

Lite sour cream can also be used, if you don't want the puffs to have any flavour

Lite sour cream can also be used, if you don’t want the puffs to have any flavour

Warning:  Do not under any circumstances add the sour cream when it is hot and then put the subsequent runny mixture into the fridge to fix it, because it will not be fixed.  Instead, it will be ruined and disgustingly oily[2].

Step 3:  Wrap and Create the Puffs

Cut the pastry sheet into 9 squares and start wrapping the puffs.  I usually set up a puff-making station so that I have everything I need within easy reach.

Puff making station!

Puff making station!

Generally, each square should have one heaped spoonful of the mixture and a large pinch of cheddar cheese on it.  Place the mixture diagonally across the square, then put the cheddar on top and turn the corners inwards.  Secure the pastry by smearing one of the corners over the other.

You should end up with a number of rolls…

Like this!

Like this!

WARNING: By the way, if you have chosen to use “Butter Puff Pastry Sheets” in Singapore weather, then I send you my condolences.  Butter puff pastry melts within seconds of being exposed to Singapore’s room temperature and then proceeds to stick to EVERYTHING.  So, unless you are capable of wrapping all nine puffs within 7 seconds, good luck.  My best timing is currently 15 seconds for 9 puffs[3].

AWESOME EXPERT TIP: Completed puffs can be frozen raw and stored for a later date.  Make sure to store in an air-tight container and use the plastic of the pastry sheets to separate them from each other.

Step 4:  Bake and Enjoy!

Shove the puffs in the oven for 18 minutes and then enjoy!

Ugly exploded puffs courtesy of The Boobook, who has giant clumsy jam hands.

Ugly exploded puffs courtesy of The Boobook, who has freakishly big wrecking balls for hands

Allow the puffs to cool until they stop breathing[4], then serve while the pastry is still crisp!

OPTIONAL AWESOME EXPERT TIP: For that very pretty professional look, you can glaze the puffs by brushing them with full-cream milk, or a beaten egg.

Now you know my secret recipe!  I have yet to throw a party where I have any of these left over.  They’re a big hit with adults and children alike!

[1] Unless you are very diligent and willing to pick all the little noodle bits out.

[2] The same applies to butter. Melted butter oil never becomes butter again when you freeze it. It just stays as some sort of gross translucent congealed mass with little bits of yellow ick floating in it.

[3] Butter puff pastry is delicious, though, so if you have more than one wrapper and are up for the challenge, you should TOTALLY give this a try. BUt don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[4] There’s really no other way to describe this. You’ll know what I’m talking about here when you try the recipe for yourself.

Preparing your child for a New Baby

So, with #3 on the way, I have already started preparing 3 year old Little E for her new role as big sister. She is really excited about the arrival of the new baby!

I have to say that in the grand scheme of things, J and Little E have a very loving sibling relationship and J has been a wonderful big brother to Little E, ever since the first day they met. J was 3 years old at the time, and I still remember the look on his face as he held Little E for the first time, and how gently he stroked her sleeping face.

3 year old J meeting 1 day old Little E

3 year old J meeting 1 day old Little E for the first time!

Part of this is due to J’s gentle and compassionate nature, and the other part (I like to think) is the due to the way that we prepared him to receive a little sister into his life. I am really hoping that Little E will have the same reaction to Baby#3, which is why I am employing the same strategies that I used with J!

So here’s:

Debs G’s Guide to Preparing a Child For a New Sibling

1. Instill a sense of ownership into your child from the get-go: Tell your child that you are growing a baby just for them. This way, the baby itself becomes a special gift to your child. The minute I told J and Little E that I was growing a baby for them to be their special little brother or sister, you could see on their faces a sense of wonder and pride. From then on, whenever they talked about the new baby, they referred to it as ‘My Baby’, not ‘Mummy’s baby’.

2. Get them to interact with the baby as much as is possible: This helps them to begin to feel attached to the baby and understand that the baby is a whole new person. It’s quite difficult for children to grasp the concept that there is a live baby growing in mum’s womb so one thing I like to do is get them to feel the baby’s movements once they start becoming more pronounced and tell them that the baby is responding to their voice and touch. “Do you feel that? Baby is trying to give you a high five!” When Little E was born, it only took the sound of J’s voice to help her calm down when she was fussing! Imagine how J felt when he realised how much she was responding to him.

3. Involve them in prenatal care and preparations: This helps them develop more concrete picture of a living baby in their minds and also gives them an idea about how much care goes into a baby even before it is born. Get the kids involved as you wash and sort all the baby gear or prepare the nursery with toys and furniture, maybe even allowing them to help choose new things for the little one. Encourage your child to select handmedowns from their own collection of toys to give to their new sibling.

Debs G Recommends: Bring the kids with you when you visit the obstetrician for the detailed prenatal scan around 20 weeks (when you find out the baby’s gender). This way they get to listen to the baby’s heartbeat and see the baby moving around on the monitor, and the baby is large enough by then to have easily identifiable body parts. When I brought Little E to my scan, she was watching so intently as the sonographer showed us the baby’s head, arms and legs that she was the FIRST person to identify the Baby #3’s gender! That was a proud moment for her!

4. Manage their expectations by introducing them to newborns and babies: This will give them some idea about what to expect. Both J and Little E had the impression that their new sibling would automatically be big enough to play with them straight away and they would be so disappointed if I let them continue thinking that way! So I brought them with me to visit friends and relatives with tiny babies. (It’s best if you bring them with you to the hospital when visiting newborns) I like to emphasise a babies’ utter helplessness, dependance on parents and siblings, and inability to communicate apart from crying.

Debs G Recommends: If you don’t have any access to any real live tiny babies, you can always show them some videos about babies. There are plenty of those around on Youtube. I personally like to show the kids an indie film that I discovered around the time I was expecting Little E. The film is called ‘(Everybody Loves) Babies’ and follows the development of four babies from around the world. This beautiful, funny film covers everything that you could possibly expect from a new baby – premature birth, breastfeeding, babywearing, weaning, changing and changing table accidents…even negative actions of older siblings (which makes for a good opportunity to tell your child what NOT to do!). Even the watching the trailer with your kids is good enough!

5. Show them photos and videos of themselves as babies and talk about the role of an older sibling as the baby’s special guardian: This also helps them to relate to the baby as they realise that they themselves were helpless babies once, and it also develops their ‘older sibling’ mentality as they figure out that there are many things they can do now which a newborn cannot do. This is also a good opportunity to talk about the different ways that they can help you when the baby is born – for example, they can become more independent in dressing/feeding/tidying so that you can spend more time helping the baby or they can even assist you in the baby’s care.

6. Acknowledge your child’s feelings: It’s natural for children to feel some anxiety and apprehension which they may not be able to articulate. They may even feel negatively about the baby, especially when they see how pregnancy makes you more tired and less mobile than usual. If your child is old enough to talk about their negative feelings towards the baby, it is important not to contradict them or force them into expressing a positive attitude. Acknowledge their feelings by agreeing with them (maybe even sharing with them that you feel a little scared and anxious too), then give them lots of cuddles and reassurance. Praise them to high heavens when they display excitement or positive attitudes towards the new baby and comment on what a wonderful big brother or sister they will make and how fortunate the baby will be to have them as an older sibling! It’s important for them to understand that the new baby is not going to replace them. I tend to emphasise the utter helplessness of the baby, and that the baby needs to be carried everywhere, so that they are prepared to see me holding and cuddling the baby often.

News in the New Year

Hello hello!

So, like A Becky Lee has explained, I’ve been rather unwell lately – what started out as a bit of post-viral fatigue soon escalated into a fully-fledged puke party lasting several months.

Here is the reason why:

Hello World!

Hello World!

I’m feeling a lot better now, so you’ll be hearing much more from me from now on, although we will be switching to a twice weekly posting schedule until things settle down a bit more.

In the meantime, HAPPY 2015!